It was November 24, 2006. Nancy LeVine received her last lick. Her senior dog, Lulu, used her tongue to lap up LeVine’s tears before peacefully passed away.
It had been five months before LeVine’s other dog, Maxie, took her last breathe.
The bond between LeVine and her two dogs was profound. As a photographer, LeVine’s dogs not only provided her unconditional love but served as her muses throughout the years. And LeVine acted as their caregivers, especially in the end.
“My nine months of caring for two failing bodies is over now. The vet visits, acupuncturist, swim therapist, cardiologist, medications, supplements, diapers, stroller, my vigilance to their silent needs…hoping not to miss any. I loved them passionately,” LeVine writes in her artist statement.
To honor this relationship LeVine had with her dogs, especially during their last years, along with the thousands of others who share the same special bond with their senior dogs, she embarked on a road trip to capture our four-legged friends in their golden years.
Her travels across the nation began 12 years ago, taking her from Alaska to Connecticut, with the simple mission of seeing how older dogs live throughout our country and photographing them in their everyday life.
“It was important that I showed the dogs in their environment,” LeVine tells This Dog’s Life. “To gain a sense of how the particular dog lives — how they inhabit their environment”
Throughout her 12-year journey, her project evolved and today 86 of her photographs are in her latest book, Senior Dogs Across America.
Each image shows dogs in their world, taking the day as it comes. They aren’t concerned about the next week, month or year, how they manage their aches and pains, wondering if they are a bother to their caretakers or if they have enough social security to get by. All the dogs are just being – living completely in the present.
“The remind us of the best in ourselves, and as they lose their vigor and youth, the reflect our own inevitable aging with courage and calm,” LeVine writes in the book.
Here are a few of our favorite photographs from LeVine’s book: